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Leaving aside dire problems and thinking of Sri Lankan Mothers

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Cass is sick and tired, bone-weary of writing about the travails our beloved country is still going through; also disgusted of referring to some MPs and what they say

and do. Given up hope on Ranil Wickremesinghe as Prez as the second surname seems to take precedence. The members nominated to COPE and COPA alone show that the Family continues to call the political tune for the country. Mercifully, the Opposition is awake, verifying matters and informing Parliament like the latest crude oil scam exposed by SJB MP, S M Marikkar.

Another devious and devilish move to hide past sins is the removal of Prof. Charitha Herath and Prof. Tissa Vitarana as heads of COPE and COPA; and inclusion of Lanza, Abeygunawardena and some other SLPPers we have no trust in. Dr Harsha de Silva, who maintains his crits and his perseverance to see to the welfare of the people of this country, vacated his seat in COPE so Prof Herath could be appointed to it. We hope the chases started by him will be concluded.

The talking point of the Assembly on Tuesday was who Prez RW had lunched with in Singapore. He retorted he would present a menu of lunch he had on the plane leaving Singapore which proves he did not lunch with Arjuna Mahendran. Does showing an airline menu prove he had lunch on board and not on land? And what does it really matter? Parliament spent a full two hours throwing brickbats and avoiding them in Parliament, where the very lives of the people of the land must be debated and solutions found to dire economic problems.

Away from botherations

An article in The Island on Tuesday October 4 had a piece by Syeda Samara Mortada from The Statesman/ANN which dealt with the travails of a modern mother, privileged. I am much more concerned and worried, yes, perturbed at the travails our less privileged mothers contend with day in and day out, horrendously exacerbated by the economic situation of the country, as repeatedly harped on as caused by one ex-ruling family and their slipper lickers. That family has been thrown out mostly by the Aragalaya protests, but they cling to power off stage and even dare to be puppeteers, given leeway by the majority in Parliament of their rotten buds.

Ordinary Sri Lankan Mother

Helen Steiner Rice’s comment expresses all the thoughts I have about our mothers whether they be poor or rich: “A mother’s love is something that no one can explain. It is made of deep devotion and of sacrifice and pain. It is endless and unselfish and enduring come what may, for nothing can destroy it or take that love away”

Women who have had babies, more so those who underwent labour pains, know full well how when the new born babe is placed close to her chest and face, she forgets the pain that wracked her and vows to do the best by this little bundle of helplessness. And in most cases, it means sacrifice, which connotes to living without satisfying her needs so the child suffers not, or to the minimum. Cass is definitely not sentimentalizing the issue. Remember the Sinhala teledrama Yashoravaya, where Iranganie Serasinghe, the mother, makes do with the dankuda– rice left in the pot after having given her family their meal. This is symbolic of many a mother. Richard de Zoysa, acting the role of her son, notices this and with no word said, acknowledges her sacrifice, and feels deeply for the mother.

Another sacrifice made is of sleep. The mother is always alert to the baby’s discomfort and is wide awake at the first cry and with limitless love, tends to the child. Many a husband now share parenting of even infants. This is more so in better educated, well to do families, where some young mothers go to the extent of sacrificing careers to do the best by the child they brought into the world. Previous generations demarcated the father and mother’s responsibilities and chores. They were brought up that way: the man first in the home and breadwinning their sole task. This is a tale told by mothers of Cass time, say fifty years ago. Husbands move themselves to other rooms so as not to be disturbed by the new born babe, with the reason they go to work and need undisturbed sleep. No matter that the new mother too has to go back to her job after just six weeks of maternity leave; so short a time. The lengthening of this stay-at-home period for almost three months is a boon. So also the fillip given to breast feeding by allowing young mothers the kiri peya or one hour off their jobs both mid morning and if necessary afternoon, to go nurse their infants. It is a practice prevalent most among estate workers.

Often and very regrettably, the mother is called upon to be the bulwark between her husband and children. Very many husbands and fathers over-imbibe, a habit seen more among the less well to do. Imbibing seems to increase proportionately as income drops. Very many families, especially among the Sinhalese, suffer this great calamity. Not only is precious, all too meager incomes wasted on drink, but inebriated fathers often turn violent and use physical force on their wives and prevent children from studies and peace in the home. A lactating mother so essentially needs peace of mind and love and caring. Very often it’s her children who give her these. But frustrated kids can themselves turn insensitive, uncaring and given to evil ways.

Accepted fact is that Sri Lankan society is patriarchal, like most south and south eastern Asian countries. But take it from Cassandra and experts, our nation is matriarchal; not obviously, but most definitely. Who gets the children to school? Who directs them in education and even in professions? This is a fact right across the board of Sri Lankan families. Thus a mother’s responsibilities are greater; she is more burdened; but most bear it all, never mind necessary sacrifices, hardships, mental strain and often having to contend with easy going, irresponsible husbands. This trend is more a later 20th to 21st century phenomenon. When Cass was a child (long ago!) roles were assigned by practice and tradition. The woman of the home was a wife, mother and housewife and of course manager of finances. Stay at home too. Fathers made the decisions about children: their schooling et al. Roles are reversed now, where the woman of the house shoulders most responsibilities of home and nurturing and guiding children, while subtly and judiciously giving first place to husbands.

A further elaboration is called for here: injustice meted out by married children on their parents. When both young parents work, child caring and child minding is passed onto mothers, with retired fathers helping. This to Cass is totally unfair. The older generation bore enough trouble and sacrificed much, hence they should not be called upon to do all that parenting over again, and when they are old.

Remedies

There are really no remedies to lighten the burden most mothers have to bear, However, there is plenty of help that can be given. The government cannot even ensure sufficient food for the populace it is supposed to look after. So let it be cursed! The private sector and individual organisations should and could help more. See to mostly correct nutrition of expectant and lactating mothers. Milk was given to them at one time. Triposha and midwifery support in proper care of infants. Abandoned due to poverty of the government. Latest gimmick: go up the cursed Lotus Tower and imagine you are in heaven!! In charitable distribution of food that is continuing, nutritious packages should specially be offered to mothers and kids. These two groups are THE backbone and hope of the country, respectively.

Sarojini Naidu wisely noted: A country’s greatness lies in its undying ideals of love and sacrifice that inspire the mothers of this race. The race she refers to (India) could be changed to Sri Lankans and thus our mothers are of the greatest importance, calling for extra attention.



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Credibility in governance through elections and not security forces

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Ranil Wickremesinghe

By Jehan Perera

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that he is prepared to declare a state of national emergency and use the military to suppress any public protests for change of government would reflect the pressures he is under. The manner in which he has used the security forces to deal with the protest movement has been unexpected. His words and deeds are contradictory to what he has previously stood for as a five-time former prime minister. This is especially true in the case of the ethnic and religious minorities who have consistently voted for him and his party at elections. They have felt safer and more secure under his governments which always sought to reduce the heavy hand of state oppression in which national security is given pride of place. He has always promised them much though he has been unable to deliver on much of what he promised.

Notwithstanding the unfortunate rhetoric and actions of the present time the belief still persists that President Wickremesinghe is the best of the available options. Recent pronouncements of the president have reignited hope that he will address the problems of the religious and ethnic minorities. He has stated that he does not want to leave this problem to the next generation. He has said that he wants to resolve this intractable national problem by the country’s 75th independence anniversary on February 4 next year. The hope that the president will make a fresh effort to resolve their problems has led the main Tamil party, the TNA, to desist from voting against the budget which passed with a relatively small majority. Their spokesperson, M A Sumanthiran said in Parliament that due to the president reaching out to them, stretching out his hand, they did not vote against the budget although they disagreed with it.

It is not only in words that the president has reached out to the ethnic and religious minorities. Reports from the north and east indicate that the Maveer (Heroes) Day commemorations this year took place without incident. During the past two years scores of people were arrested and a massive presence of security forces blocked the people from participating in public events. On this occasion the security forces did not get involved in any attempt to stop the commemorations. University students distributed sweets and even cut a birthday cake to celebrate slain LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran’s birthday. The analogy that the president drew to himself being seen as a Hitler who exterminated ethnic and religious minorities is misplaced. The release of those held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for engaging in similar acts in the past would further contribute to the reconciliation process.

WORSENING CRISIS

In this context, the president’s use of militaristic rhetoric can only be understood in relation to the growing economic crisis that shows no sign of abating. The anticipated IMF bailout package is at risk of getting indefinitely delayed. It was initially anticipated to come in September then in November but now January is being targeted. Japan’s top brokerage and investment bank, Nomura Holdings Inc, has warned that seven countries – Egypt, Romania, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Hungary – are now at a high risk of currency crises. Sri Lanka is in third place on the table of risk. The next devaluation of the rupee could see another spike in inflation that will make the cost of living even more unbearable to the masses of people.

The president is on record as having said that the economic crisis will get worse before it improves. Both anecdotal and statistical evidence indicates that it is indeed worsening. University teachers at the University of Sabaragamuwa reported that attendance in their classes was down by at least a quarter. Students who come from other parts of the country are unable to afford the cost of meals and so they stay at home. A study by the Institute of Policy Studies has shown that about four percent of primary, 20 percent of secondary and 26 percent of collegiate students had dropped out of school in the estate sector, which is the worst affected. The future costs to the country of a less well educated population is incalculable and inhumane.

As it is the situation is a dire one for large swathes of the population. Research from the University of Peradeniya has revealed that close to half of Sri Lanka’s population, 42 percent (up from 14 percent in 2019) are living under the poverty line. Professor of Economics Wasantha Athukorala has said there is a dramatic increase in the poverty level of over three-hold across the past three years. In 2019, nearly 3 million people lived below the poverty line, but that number has increased to 9.6 million in October 2022. In these adverse circumstances stability in a polity can be ensured either through legitimacy or through force. It would be tragic if the latter is the choice that is made.

ELECTORAL SOLUTION

President Wickremesinghe has been stressing the importance of political stability to achieve economic development. His recent statement that the security forces will be used to negate any unauthorised protest is a sign that the government expects the conditions of economic hardship to escalate. The general public who are experiencing extreme economic hardship are appalled at the manner in which those who committed acts of corruption and violence in the past are being overlooked because they belong to the ruling party and its cliques. The IMF has made anti-corruption a prerequisite to qualify for a bailout, calling for “Reducing corruption vulnerabilities through improving fiscal transparency and public financial management, introducing a stronger anti-corruption legal framework, and conducting an in-depth governance diagnostic, supported by IMF technical assistance.”

It is morally unacceptable even if politically pragmatic that the president is failing to take action against the wrongdoers because he needs their votes in parliament. As a start, the president needs to appoint a credible and independent national procurement committee to ensure that major economic contracts are undertaken without corruption. Second, the president needs to bite the bullet on elections. The country’s burning issues would be better accepted by the country and world at large if they are being dealt with by a statesman than by a dictator. Government that is based on the people’s consent constitutes the sum and substance of democracy. This consent is manifested through free and fair elections that are regularly held. Local government elections have been postponed for a year and are reaching their legal maximum in terms of postponement. These elections need to be held before March next year.

Elections will enable the people to express their views in a democratic manner to elect their representatives for the present. This would provide the government with guidance in terms of the decisions it is being called to take to revive the economy and place the burden in a manner that will be acceptable to the people. The provincial council elections have been postponed since 2018. Democratically elected provincial councils share in the burdens of governance. The devolution of power that took place under the 13th Amendment was meant to promote ethnic harmony in the country. The president who has taken the position that he is for a solution to the ethnic conflict should seriously consider conducting the provincial council elections together with the local government elections se their financial costs. By doing so he will also gain legitimacy as a democratic statesman and not a dictator.

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WEDNESDAY – Movie Review

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The Addams Family is back with a new tale to tell! Originally created by Charles Addams as a comic strip published in The New Yorker, it offered readers a sarcastic take on the ‘typical nuclear family’ by substituting it with a more macabre bunch of strange and eerie individuals. Since then the titular family has been adapted on to the big screen many times, from live action movies to animated versions, the Addams Family has gained many fans throughout the years. Created by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, with Tim Burton working on four episodes of the eight-part series, Wednesday is a welcoming tale for young fans, but unfortunately fails to think outside the box and remains anchored to the floor with a messy storyline.

Dead-eyed Wednesday Addams (Jenna Ortega) is a stubborn, independent and intelligent teenager in this new series. Her penchant for attracting trouble wherever she goes alarms her parents, Morticia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gomez (Luis Guzmán). With an already strained relationship with her parents (specifically her mother), Wednesday is enrolled at Nevermore, an academy for outcasts like herself. Having attended the academy themselves, Morticia and Gomez are hopeful that their daughter will ‘fit right in’. Caught between trying to build her own identity and other teenage complexities, Wednesday soon finds herself in the middle of a twisted mystery.

This is the first time audiences are introduced to a teenage Wednesday, which allowed the creators to build a new world on their own terms, but while keeping true to the original nature of the character. The creators do a fair amount of world building by introducing other outcasts like the Fangs (vampires), Stoners (Gorgons), Scales (sirens) and Furs (werewolves), among others. Nevermore Academy itself is beautiful and comes with the classic package of creepy crypts, hidden rooms and secret societies. The series also offers a decent amount of gore, although they could have added more given Wednesday’s proclivity for gore-related activities. The series deals with classic young-adult tropes which includes teenage crushes, bullies, relationships and even prom, among other things. The series navigates through Wednesday’s journey of self-discovery, which is a new avenue for both the character and the fans. From understanding and displaying her emotions to discovering her identity and understanding her peers, the series takes a deep dive into heavy material.

Ortega’s performance as the titular character plays a major role in keeping audiences glued to the screen. This is also the first time viewers are shown a teenage Wednesday Addams, which works to Ortega’s benefit as she depicts more dimensions to the ghoulish, morose character many are associated with based on previous renditions. Her facial expressions and ability to deliver on seriously emotional moments strengthens her role as the lead. The rest of the Addams Family, even with limited screen time, lack the eccentricities their characters should have. Hopeless romantics Morticia and Gomez seem incompatible in this version and Uncle Fester is far less crazy than he ought to be. The only member worth mentioning is the Thing—a severed hand— who brought more character and spirit to the series acting alongside Ortega. With barely any room to develop a majority of the characters are prosaic and tedious, even though they remain vital to the plot.

Apart from Ortega, Gwendoline Christie and Emma Myers deserve honorable mentions for their roles as Nevermore’s head teacher, Larissa Weems and the peppy Enid Sinclair respectively. Enid quickly became a fan favorite as the character was the polar opposite to Wednesday. Her character is vital to Wednesday’s character development and their journey to find common ground as mismatched individuals is amusing.

Christina Ricci who played Wednesday in the 90s returns as ‘normie’ teacher, Miss Thornhill and unfortunately barely stands out and this in large part due to the messy storyline. The series is bogged down with numerous subplots and overlapping tropes and the characters with potential for growth are completely overlooked. With love triangles, bullies and killer monsters on the loose, the series self-destructs and the climax sinks into disappointment.

At the end of the day, Wednesday plays to the beat of the new generation and touches on new themes, which is welcoming seeing as the character should grow up at some point. While not everyone may relate to Wednesday’s teenage perils, it is interesting to witness her growth and her journey as an ‘outcast’ or ‘weirdo’. And while Wednesday doesn’t exactly offer a distinctly unique story, it gives audiences a small taste of what Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday is capable of. Creating a story around a well-established franchise is a difficult task, and in this case the creators fail to add value to their visions. If the series continues, the creators will have the opportunity to think further outside the box and push the limits to Wednesday’s character and give audiences a bone-chilling experience. Wednesday is currently streaming on Netflix.

 

 

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Stage set for… AWESOME FRIDAY

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The past few weeks have been a very busy period for the new-look Mirage outfit…preparing themselves for their big night – Friday, December 2nd – when they would perform, on stage, for the very first time, as Donald Pieries (leader/vocals/drums), Benjy (bass), Niro Wattaladeniya (guitar), Viraj Cooray (guitar/vocals), Asangi Wickramasinghe (keyboard/vocals), along with their two frontline female vocalist, Sharon (Lulu) and Christine.

They have thoroughly immersed themselves in their practice sessions as they are very keen to surprise their fans, music lovers, and well-wishers, on opening night…at the Peacock, Berjaya Hotel, in Mount Lavinia.

Action starts at 8.00 pm and, thereafter, it will be five hours of great music, along with EFFEX DJs Widhara and Damien, interspersed with fun and excitement…for the whole family!

Yes, opening night is for the whole family, so you don’t need to keep some of your family members at home – kids, especially.

Working on their repertoire for Friday, bassist Benjy says “what we will dish out will be extra special, with lots of action on stage.”

It would be interesting to see Sharon (Lulu) doing her thing with Mirage, after her early days with the Gypsies, and, I’m told, a dynamic performance from Sharon is what is in store for all those who make it to the Peacock this Friday

Edward (Eddy) Joseph (centre) with Donald and Benjy

While the band was at one of their practice sessions, last week, they had a surprise visitor – Edward (Eddy) Joseph, a former member of the group Steelers, who is now based in Germany.

Eddy is here on a short visit and is scheduled to return to Germany, tomorrow (30).

He spent an hour with Mirage, at their practice session, and says he is disappointed that he would not be around for the group’s opening night.

However, there is a possibility of several well-known personalities, in the showbiz scene, turning up, on Friday night, to experience the sounds of the new-look Mirage, including Sohan Weerasinghe and Joey Lewis (from London).

Rajiv Sebastian, too, says he is keen to be a part of the fun-filled evening.

You could contact Benjy, on 0777356356, if you need to double check…their plans for AWESOME FRIDAY!

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